What Are Irregular Verbs in English: Definition & Examples

By Team ABJ

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Understanding irregular verbs in English can be a key to fluent communication. Unlike regular verbs, irregular verbs have unique forms for the past tense and past participle. In this post, we’ll break down what irregular verbs are, show you examples, and explain why they’re so important for speaking and writing English.

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What Are Irregular Verbs?

Irregular verbs represent a distinct category of words in the English language that deviates from the conventional pattern for changing verb forms. Unlike most verbs in English, which form their past tense and past participle by simply adding “-ed” to the base form (e.g., “walk” becomes “walked”), irregular verbs follow unique, unpredictable transformations when discussing the past.

Contrasting with Regular Verbs:

To comprehend irregular verbs better, let’s contrast them with regular verbs:

Regular Verbs: These are the straightforward ones. They adhere to a predictable pattern when transforming their forms. For the past tense and past participle, you typically add “-ed” to the base form. For instance, “play” becomes “played.”

Irregular Verbs: These don’t adhere to the straightforward rule. They have their own distinctive way of changing in the past tense and past participle. For example, “go” doesn’t become “goed”; it becomes “went.”


Let’s explore a few examples of irregular verbs:

  • Sing – Base Form: “Sing,” Past Tense: “Sang,” Past Participle: “Sung”

In the base form, you sing a song. In the past, you sang a song, and you have sung beautifully.

  • Eat – Base Form: “Eat,” Past Tense: “Ate,” Past Participle: “Eaten”

You eat pizza today, but yesterday you ate pizza. You had eaten your vegetables.

  • See – Base Form: “See,” Past Tense: “Saw,” Past Participle: “Seen”

You see your friend at the park. Yesterday, you saw your friend there. You have seen many amazing things in your life.

  • Take – Base Form: “Take,” Past Tense: “Took,” Past Participle: “Taken”

You take your backpack to school. Last week, you took it there. You had taken it with you every day.

So, irregular verbs are akin to the rebels of the English language. They don’t conform to the standard “add -ed” rule. Instead, they possess their own unique way of changing when discussing the past.

The Three Forms of Irregular Verbs

There are three forms of irregular verbs: the base form, past simple, and past participle, using examples of common irregular verbs.

1. Base Form:

  • The base form is the simplest and most basic form of a verb, and you can find it in the dictionary. It’s the form you use for the infinitive form of a verb.
  • Example with the verb “swim”:
    • Base Form: Swim
    • Base Form in a Sentence: “I love to swim in the pool.”

2. Past Simple:

  • The past simple form is used to describe actions that occurred in the past. Irregular verbs change uniquely in the past simple.
  • Example with the verb “begin”:
    • Base Form: Begin
    • Past Simple: Began
    • Past Simple in a Sentence: “She began her journey at sunrise.”

3. Past Participle:

  • The past participle form is employed with auxiliary verbs (e.g., have, has, had) to create the present perfect and past perfect tenses. Irregular verbs also have their distinct past participle forms.
  • Example with the verb “drink”:
    • Base Form: Drink
    • Past Participle: Drunk
    • Past Participle in a Sentence: “She had already drunk two cups of coffee.”

Here are more examples of common irregular verbs with their three forms:

1. Base Form: Sing

  • Past Simple: Sang
  • Past Participle: Sung
  • Example:
    • Base Form: “I love to sing in the shower.”
    • Past Simple: “She sang a beautiful song yesterday.”
    • Past Participle: “They have sung together for years.”

2. Base Form: Take

  • Past Simple: Took
  • Past Participle: Taken
  • Example:
    • Base Form: “I will take my umbrella.”
    • Past Simple: “He took the last piece of cake.”
    • Past Participle: “I have taken my medication.”

3. Base Form: Drive

  • Past Simple: Drove
  • Past Participle: Driven
  • Example:
    • Base Form: “I enjoy driving on weekends.”
    • Past Simple: “She drove to the beach yesterday.”
    • Past Participle: “They have driven across the country.”

4. Base Form: Go

  • Past Simple: Went
  • Past Participle: Gone
  • Example:
    • Base Form: “I want to go to the park.”
    • Past Simple: “She went to the store this morning.”
    • Past Participle: “They have gone on vacation.”

5. Base Form: See

  • Past Simple: Saw
  • Past Participle: Seen
  • Example:
    • Base Form: “I can see the mountains from here.”
    • Past Simple: “He saw an interesting movie last night.”
    • Past Participle: “I have seen that movie before.”

Common irregular verbs in English

Here’s a list of some common irregular verbs in English of how they differ from regular verbs:

1. Go

  • Base Form: Go
  • Past Tense: Went
  • Past Participle: Gone
    • Example: I go to the store. Yesterday, I went to the store. I have gone to the store many times.

2. See

  • Base Form: See
  • Past Tense: Saw
  • Past Participle: Seen
    • Example: I see the mountains. Last summer, I saw the mountains. I have seen them from a distance.

3. Eat

  • Base Form: Eat
  • Past Tense: Ate
  • Past Participle: Eaten
    • Example: I eat breakfast every day. Yesterday, I ate pancakes for breakfast. I have eaten at that restaurant before.

4. Take

  • Base Form: Take
  • Past Tense: Took
  • Past Participle: Taken
    • Example: I take my dog for a walk. Last night, I took my dog for a walk. I have taken him to the park.

5. Bring

  • Base Form: Bring
  • Past Tense: Brought
  • Past Participle: Brought
    • Example: I bring my lunch to work. Yesterday, I brought a sandwich for lunch. I have brought my lunch here for years.

6. Sing

  • Base Form: Sing
  • Past Tense: Sang
  • Past Participle: Sung
    • Example: I sing in the choir. Last week, I sang a solo. I have sung in many concerts.

7. Run

  • Base Form: Run
  • Past Tense: Ran
  • Past Participle: Run
    • Example: I run five miles every day. Yesterday, I ran ten miles. I have run marathons before.

8. Drink

  • Base Form: Drink
  • Past Tense: Drank
  • Past Participle: Drunk
    • Example: I drink water with my meals. Last night, I drank a glass of milk. I have drunk various types of beverages.

9. Break

  • Base Form: Break
  • Past Tense: Broke
  • Past Participle: Broken
    • Example: I break a lot of dishes. Unfortunately, I broke a plate yesterday. I have broken a few glasses in the past.

10. Drive

  • Base Form: Drive
  • Past Tense: Drove
  • Past Participle: Driven
    • Example: I drive to work every day. Last weekend, I drove to the mountains. I have driven long distances before.

Categorizing Irregular Verbs

You can group these verbs based on their changes in the past tense and past participle forms. Let’s simplify this:

Group 1: No Change Verbs

Some irregular verbs remain the same in both the past tense and past participle. For example:

  • Base Form: Cut
  • Past Tense: Cut
  • Past Participle: Cut

So, you cut something yesterday, and you have cut things many times.

Group 2: -D or -T Ending Verbs

Certain irregular verbs change by adding a -d or -t to the base form in the past tense and past participle. For example:

  • Base Form: Bend
  • Past Tense: Bent
  • Past Participle: Bent

You bend a paper, you bent it yesterday, and you have bent many papers.

Group 3: -En Ending Verbs

Other irregular verbs change by adding -en to the base form for both the past tense and past participle. For example:

  • Base Form: Break
  • Past Tense: Broke
  • Past Participle: Broken

You break a pencil, you broke it yesterday, and it has been broken before.

Group 4: Completely Different Verbs

Some irregular verbs undergo complete changes, and there’s no specific rule to follow. These verbs need to be memorized. For example:

  • Base Form: Go
  • Past Tense: Went
  • Past Participle: Gone

You go to school, you went to school yesterday, and you have gone there many times.

Using Irregular Verbs in Sentences

Let’s use various irregular verbs in sentences with past tense and past participle forms:

Past Tense Sentences:

  • She ate pizza for dinner last night.
  • They went to the zoo on Saturday.
  • He saw a shooting star in the night sky.
  • I drove to the mountains for a weekend getaway.
  • The children broke their toys during playtime.

Past Participle Sentences:

  • I have eaten sushi many times.
  • She has gone to that museum before.
  • They had seen that movie three times.
  • We’ve driven across the country on a road trip.
  • The vase was broken when it fell off the shelf.

Both Past Tense and Past Participle Sentences:

  • He took his dog for a walk yesterday, and he has often taken it to the park.
  • She sang beautifully at the concert last week, and she has sung for years in the choir.
  • We cut down the old tree in the backyard, and we’ve cut firewood from it.
  • They bent the metal into a new shape, and they’ve often bent it for various projects.
  • I sent you an email last night, and I’ve sent you many messages.

The Importance of Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs are important in English for a few simple reasons:

1. Real-Life Conversations: In everyday English, when people talk, they often use irregular verbs. These verbs help us describe things that happened in the past, actions we’ve done, and things we’ve experienced. For example, when you chat with friends, you might say, “I went to the movies yesterday,” or “She sang a song beautifully.” These are all sentences where irregular verbs play a big role.

2. Expressing Different Times: Irregular verbs help us tell stories and share experiences from the past. When you want to talk about something that happened yesterday, last week, or even a long time ago, you rely on these verbs. For instance, you can say, “I ate pizza for lunch,” to talk about a specific time in the past.

3. Fluent Communication: Using irregular verbs correctly is important for being understood in English. If you mix them up or don’t use them right, your sentences might sound strange or confusing to native speakers. So, learning how to use irregular verbs well is a crucial part of becoming fluent in English.

How irregular verbs are used in conversations?

Irregular verbs play a significant role in everyday conversations in English. They help people express actions and events that occurred in the past. Here are some examples of real-life dialogues that demonstrate the usage of irregular verbs:

Conversation 1: Talking about the Weekend

Priya: Hey, how was your weekend?

Vikram: It was great! I went camping with my friends.

Priya: That sounds fun! What did you guys do?

Vikram: We built a campfire and ate marshmallows. Then, we sang songs by the fire.

Conversation 2: Discussing a Movie

Neha: Have you seen that new movie yet?

Raj: Yeah, I saw it last night. It was fantastic!

Neha: I heard it’s really good. What did you think?

Raj: I thought the acting was excellent, and the plot was so interesting.

Conversation 3: Sharing Travel Experiences

Anjali: I love traveling. Have you ever been to Jaipur?

Arjun: Yes, I’ve been to Jaipur. It’s a beautiful city.

Anjali: How was your trip?

Arjun: It was amazing. I saw the Amber Fort and ate delicious Rajasthani cuisine.

Conversation 4: Recalling Childhood Memories

Asha: When we were kids, we always broke our toys, didn’t we?

Aditya: Oh, yes! We broke so many things playing in the backyard.

Asha: And remember how we built that treehouse?

Aditya: Yes, that treehouse was so much fun. We spent hours there.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to irregular verbs:

What’s the main difference between regular and irregular verbs?

Regular verbs form their past tense and past participle by adding “-ed” to the base form, while irregular verbs have unique past tense and past participle forms that don’t follow a standard pattern.

How do I know if a verb is irregular?

Irregular verbs typically need to be memorized because there isn’t a consistent rule for their past forms. You can find lists of irregular verbs to help you remember them.

Is there a way to predict how irregular verbs change?

Not always. While some irregular verbs have patterns, many change uniquely, so memorization is often the best approach.

Are irregular verbs used in all English tenses?

Yes, irregular verbs are used in various tenses, including the past simple, past perfect, and continuous tenses, just like regular verbs.

How important is it to learn irregular verbs for English fluency?

Learning irregular verbs is essential for fluency because they are commonly used in everyday conversations and writing. Incorrect usage can affect comprehension.